believe

My heart was broken the other day. Not just a simple broken either, it was more a shattering, deep pain that was busting forth in front of my eyes that I couldn’t stop and in the end it tore me to shreads.

I was sitting at a village and there was a young one asleep in my lap and several kids hanging out around me. We were joking around when the conversation suddenly took a turn for the worse, and while I am super impressed with my Creole abilities to participate in this conversation, my inability also left me at a loss of complete words to help.

“Stephanie, did you know both of his parents are dead?” we shall call this kid, Little Shit, LS for short.

“That’s a lie!” we shall call this kid the Tortured Little, TL for short.

“It’s true! Both are dead!” LS stated plainly.

“That’s a lie!” TL said, grabbing my hands in his, “My mama is dead, but my dad is in prison.”

“His dad stole something with a gun,” LS said.

“That’s a lie!” TL shouted.

“It’s true! He used a gun,” LS said.

“A lie!” TL shouted as silent tears started running down his face.

“I believe you,” I said gently straight into TL’s eyes as he silently nodded, still combating the onslaught of lies coming at him.

“Go away! Stop hurting him,” I told LS, who by this time was smirking at the reaction he was getting from TL.

I pulled TL to my side and repeated again, “I believe you. I don’t believe him. You know the truth. He doesn’t know,” as tears continued to fall down his cheeks.

“Do you understand my bad Creole?” I asked him.

With a direct look in my eyes, he silently nodded yes.

“I believe you. God knows the truth. God loves you a lot,” I told him.

Little Shit is on my radar now. Up until now, I’ve noticed some things he has done, but couldn’t understand enough of the words to really know what was happening. It angers me that he feels he needs to make other kids feel that way in order to feel powerful or to deny his own story. And truly this could happen with ANY kids, emotions and situations are difficult when you are a kid. In these moments it is hard for me to remember grace. LS didn’t ask to live with a multitude of other kids in a village run by a Pastor. The sin of this world has gotten so rampant that it led him there in whatever way sin has kept his family in poverty and manifested there.

If there is anything that makes my heart break more, it’s knowing the defense mechanisms of the orphan culture can be mean, harsh and ruthless. It’s awful, but the sin of this world is ridiculously appalling and it is painful to see when it becomes visible this way. So many get caught up in how cute and adorable most of the kids are – and they are – but if we don’t acknowledge that the life of those that have no one to champion them sucks, then we do them a disservice. Acknowledgment comes in small forms, not big gestures. We are talking about young lives that God created and has a path for in this world…who need to be encouraged and repeatedly told they have value.

It is three small words I was able to use with Tortured Little…”I believe you,” and I am incredibly thankful in that moment I knew that verb. Our stories are our own, and no matter where the truth really lies…they are still our stories. No one else has the right to them, and they certainly don’t get to use them against us, though many try. When in those moments, we can feel so very alone and as if no one else would have the guts to stand with us. We feel like everyone is against us, and that no one actually values the truth of the story or would attempt to see both sides.

As I reflect back on this conversation, since it has stayed with me for several days, I hope that the next time someone tries to use my story against me…someone is there to say, “I believe you.”

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contagious

I made it until I was about 11 until I had chicken pox. Itchy, splotchy and nasty. I contracted it through my extremely contagious little brother, who conveniently had it at a young age since he is 9 years younger than me. Thanks, bro. (sarcasm intended)

We learn about contagious things from our childhood. Wash your hands. Use sanitizer. Don’t cough on me. Don’t wipe that there. Don’t touch that. No, you can’t share my drink…I don’t want to catch what you have!

With all of those negative commands about things that are contagious, and the order to stay away from them, what happens when we want someone to catch what we have? When we want our passion to be contagious for a mission? A ministry? A country? For our Savior…

It’s no secret that I am a Paul junkie…if I’d lived in Bible times, there’s no doubt I would have been one of his groupies. Of course, only after I got over the fact he wasn’t killing Christians anymore. But you see, that’s the story. The contagious part. He was a transformed man on that road to Damascus, and his words came out of that transformation.

Then they couldn’t get him to shut up.

Saul spent a few days getting acquainted with the Damascus disciples, but then went right to work, wasting no time, preaching in the meeting places that this Jesus was the Son of God. They were caught off guard by this and, not at all sure they could trust him, they kept saying, “Isn’t this the man who wreaked havoc in Jerusalem among the believers? And didn’t he come here to do the same thing—arrest us and drag us off to jail in Jerusalem for sentencing by the high priests?” But their suspicions didn’t slow Saul down for even a minute. His momentum was up now and he plowed straight into the opposition, disarming the Damascus Jews and trying to show them that this Jesus was the Messiah. [Acts 9:19-22 MSG]

Now somewhere there is an old-school, cynical believer who would think, “That’s how it always happens with ‘new believers’ they catch that Gospel fire and won’t ever let up. It fades eventually.”

I remember getting told that when I was a new believer. And it pissed me off.

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As I sit here writing this…I find myself confronted by that young woman who was so passionate about her Savior that she made some radical choices to follow him. She definitely made some choices that didn’t sit well with people in her life. And the sad part? I think she’d sit across this desk from me and say, ‘What the hell is wrong with you? Do I need to come give you a kick in the ass? What the hell are you fighting for? We have more fight than this…’

Then the 14-years-older version of me says, ‘You are going to get worn out. Eventually too many people get into your head…and then you start giving credence to some of those voices that you probably shouldn’t.”

When the only voice you should be listening to is that of the One who created you. The One who calls you. The One who you answer to.

The same Paul they couldn’t get to shut up wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:13, “It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ Since we have that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak.”

Here are the contagious truths I am choosing to believe and speak…

God’s word should be contagious. Be in it. If your Bible has a layer of dust, there’s a problem. Get started now, and no one will notice you had a layer of dust.

God’s story should be contagious. Tell it. If you don’t know how to talk about God’s story, start practicing. His message was spread by the disciples only because they were passionate about telling what they had LEARNED from Jesus and what they had SEEN in him. Tell those around you how your story merges with God’s story. If you don’t know, figure it out, because I guarantee it merges.

God’s community should be contagious. I once heard Michael Frost talk about movie trailers and Christianity. How in the theatre, before the actual movie starts there are these teasers. By the reaction of those around you to the trailer you know immediately if they ‘HAVE TO GO SEE THAT MOVIE’ or ‘wouldn’t be caught dead seeing that.’ Which version of Christian community do others see in you, your family & the people you are with?

God’s people should be contagious. This is where we all need to channel a bit of that new believer enthusiasm, and not be afraid of it. Do you love others with that newborn Spirit-filled love? Does your voice inflection channel wonder and excitement for who God is? Do your words speak to the heart of God, or do they berate, belittle and judge those around you? People are not drawn to  judgers…but they do want to be around those handing out God’s unconditional love, mercy and grace.

People are drawn to the purest form of the Gospel…we just tend to dilute it and unintentionally make it ugly through our own sin. Shame on us.

Every single one of these makes God something that others want to catch and be infected with. And before you know it…you are spreading the Gospel in ways that you never imagined. Go be contagious…in a good, non-hand sanitizer way.